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Songs about entertainment: self-praise and self-mockery in the American musical

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Abstract:

Songs about entertainment, such as There's No Business Like Show Business (Annie Get Your Gun, 1946), abound in the American musical from at least the late 1890s, and they reveal important aspects of the genre. Jane Feuer notes the self-praise in such songs, as well as the nostalgia for past entertainment traditions. In addition, however, musicals feature a strong, heretofore neglected propensity towards satire of a wide range of artistic culture. Specifically, the American musical is frequently self-mocking. Parody, burlesque, and irony are long-standing conventions of the genre; and they imply a sophisticated reception process that encourages a sense of community. This paper illustrates these tendencies by analyzing songs about entertainment dating from both the mid-century period so often dubbed the Golden Age of the American Musical and also, crucially, from the formative decades of the early twentieth century that are frequently neglected in critical analyses of the genre.

Keywords: Irony; Metatheatre; Reception; Reflexive songs; US Movie Musicals; US Musical Theatre

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/smt.1.3.227_1

Affiliations: Independent Scholar.

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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